Dilemma of the Month: Abruptly Made a Manager

Back Q&A Jun 1, 2017 By Suzanne Lucas
Yesterday, I was an individual contributor who did technical work. This morning, a group of my coworkers and I found out that we are now expected to manage about 10 non-exempt staff each. Overnight! There’s no title change, no increase in salary — just added work and stress. We are told we have no choice and have to take on that extra work because the company’s success or failure depends on us. Can they just make us managers without asking? Do we have the right to turn down these positions?

The legal answer is yes, they can do this. There’s no law that prohibits a company from making changes to your job description without providing additional compensation. The exception to this would be if you had a contract, such as being part of a union, but it doesn’t sound like that is the case. You can turn down the position, but they could consider that a resignation, and you’d be out of a job and ineligible for unemployment.

Now, the long answer: This is a big deal. Going from zero to 10 direct reports overnight is a big deal. Ten people is a lot for even an experienced manager, let alone a bunch of unwilling and untrained people. Here’s what I would do:

Ask What Their Goal Is

This move may make perfect business sense. Your knowledge and skills may well be the best in the company for training and managing these non-exempt employees. It may be a perfect fit and senior management is puzzled as to why they didn’t do this before.

It may be that they need to go through a huge cost-cutting and decided to lay off all the management, and you guys were the only people available to take over those responsibilities.

Poll: How would you handle being abruptly made a manager?

I have no idea what caused the company to do this, but finding out the answer will let you know the thinking behind it and may make it easier to understand why this is — presumably — a logical decision for the company.

Ask for an Increase in Pay

They didn’t offer an increase, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask. This will be especially effective if all of you band together to ask for the increase. Before you do, gather information about pay in your area. My bet is it will be very easy to show that the market rate for managers is higher than the market rate for individual contributors.

If they say no, ask if it will be considered at the next pay increase cycle. Many companies have specific times set apart for growth promotions — that is, giving people more responsibilities without moving them into a vacancy. This is precisely what happened to you.

Ask for Training

Managing people is nothing like being an individual contributor. You need training on how to be a manager, like how to handle requests for FMLA, accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, when and how to approve vacation time, sexual harassment training and a myriad of other things that you really need to know. As a manager, the company can be held liable for your decisions and actions when it comes to how you treat your direct reports, so they really should provide these guidelines for you, as soon as possible.

If your company doesn’t offer these things internally, look for training classes in your area and suggest them to your managers. Even if you’re located in the middle of nowhere, there are online classes available.

Ask for a Title Bump

Title bumps are free for them but valuable to you. Why? Because when you put this on your resume, it looks like a reward for your fantastic abilities and success. You don’t need to explain in a subsequent job interview that everyone you worked with received the same thing at the same time, and none of you wanted it.

Even if they refuse, mark this as a change on your resume. Like this:

  • Senior Technical Analyst (10 Direct Reports), May 2017 – Present
  • Senior Technical Analyst, June 2015 – May 2017

Why the worry about what to put on your resume? Because if your managers cannot give you a good explanation for the change, refuse to give you a salary increase, a title increase or proper training, it’s time to evaluate if you really want to stay at this company. You may; you may not. There’s no shame in wanting to be an individual contributor instead of managing people, and there’s no shame in leaving a company that plays rotten tricks on its employees. So, you may want to freshen up your resume — complete with your “promotion” — and find a company that treats you properly. 


Visitor Maria Rose (not verified)June 8, 2017 - 2:38pm

I first made a comment without reading the HR evil Lady response, so now I am going to add a separate one after reading her comments .
Whatever the reasons, the company had to add responsibility of supervision of others to job duty, you do have the right to ask why. The reason I say this is not just to see if you can gain a title of manager (so overrated) but to see where the thinking of the company is headed. If they are going to take your input on how you can effectively do this supervision, then yes it is a supervisory role but they may not want you to control anything other than a quick checking of status of work.
Yes one can ask if one can refuse but it sounded like it was a mandatory change in job work.